Increasing Access to Telemental Health for Veterans Across New York, Phase 2
June 17, 2021
Approximately one in five veterans in New York screens positive for a probable diagnosis of PTSD or depression.
In addition, suicide rates for veterans are nearly 70% higher than rates for their civilian counterparts. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the mental health of New Yorkers, including veterans, who have experienced high rates of job loss and social isolation. Compounding the challenge, there is a shortage of mental health providers equipped to treat veterans. In 2020, NYHealth awarded The Steven A. Cohn Military Family Center (MFC) at NYU Langone a grant to expand its no-cost telemental health services as a cost-effective way to overcome barriers in access to care. MFC’s services have been effective in reducing depression and anxiety symptoms and in increasing quality of life—results that are comparable to patients who received face-to-face care. In 2021, NYHealth awarded MFC a second grant to continue providing free, high-quality telemental health services to veterans in hard-to-reach, under-resourced areas outside of New York City and increase its current caseload capacity.
Under this grant, MFC will continue strategic outreach in areas including Fort Drum and West Point, where thousands of veterans live without access to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facility and where there is increasing demand for services. It will hire a client intake coordinator to focus on enrolling new patients into services, connecting them to telemental health appointments, and making referrals to other needed services. The intake coordinator will free up time for existing staff to conduct targeted outreach efforts and provide clinical care to patients. MFC will continue to use data to identify and target underserved areas across the State and implement outreach plans in communities. It will track and monitor mental health outcomes of patients over time, focusing on decreases in PTSD symptom scores and other mental health-related issues as well as increased quality of life. Lessons learned and best practices from the project will be shared with State and federal partners.